Aug. 26, 2008

Teaching a Nephew to Type

by Rebecca McClanahan

Because you lag already
years behind the computer-and-
otherwise-literate boys with fathers,
and your handwriting is a tangle
the teachers have grown weary
of unraveling, and because you are as close
to a son as I can manage, though nothing
about you is manageable anymore,

I am teaching you to type. The trick
is to look anywhere but down.
Your fingers are dumb birds pecking,
just follow the chart I've made.
We'll begin in the thick of things,
the home row to which we'll always
return. Little finger on a. Then tap
your way next door to s. Now

you've made as. Don't think, I say.
Just watch the chart: dad sad fad
a flash a flask a lad had
. Tomorrow
we'll move on to reach and return
and the period key, but for now
just use the comma, it's like catching
a breath, or you can type a colon,
double dot, old snake eyes, luck
in your future, meaning watch this space:
something is about to follow.

"Teaching a Nephew to Type" by Rebecca McClanahan from Deeplight: New and Selected Poems 1987-2007. © Iris Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of modern art collector and memoirist Peggy Guggenheim, (books by this author) born in New York City (1898), where she grew up "excessively unhappy and lonely," she said, during a "gilt-edged childhood." Her father died on the Titanic, which sank in 1912, and she inherited nearly half a million dollars when she was 14. She had been tutored privately until high school and then at age 15 went to a prestigious Jewish girls school on the West Side.

After graduating she started to rebel against her bourgeois upbringing. She educated herself in a variety of different areas and took classes on subjects that she hadn't been exposed to while growing up. She became a radical and moved to Europe for 21 years, where she lived a Bohemian lifesty


In Britain, she fell in love with the Irish writer Samuel Beckett. With his encouragement, along with that of others, she opened a modern art gallery in London in 1938, where she displayed the works of avant-garde European artists. She would host solo shows for individual artists, and she always bought at least one of their works so they wouldn't have to deal with the disappointment of not having sold anything at their show. She also made a trip to France with the goal of buying one piece of artwork each day, but her plans were soon foiled when Hitler invaded Europe. She asked the Louvre to protect her collection, by now sizable, but they didn't consider it worthy enough, so she shipped it over to the United States under the guise of "household objects."

In New York City, on West 57th Street, she opened a gallery called "Art of this Century." There she gave Jackson Pollock a one-man show, which led to his being "discovered" — and she also provided him with the financial support that allowed him to devote all his time and energy to his artwork. She considered her patronage of Pollock to be one of the great achievements of her life.

She wrote a couple of volumes of memoirs, which include accounts of her numerous affairs with various artists. They are entitled Out of This Century (1946) and Confessions of an Art Addict (1960). Somebody once asked her, "How many husbands have you had?" She replied, "Do you mean my own, or other people's?"

It was on this day in 1920 that the 19th Amendment was formally incorporated into the U.S. Constitution. It proclaimed, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." It ended more than 70 years of struggle by the suffragist movement.

It had passed through the House and Senate. At first, it looked like the amendment was not going to make it. And then, a 24-year-old legislator from Tennessee, Harry Burn, decided to vote for the amendment at the last minute because his mother wanted him to. And Tennessee became the 36th state to approve suffrage for women.

They sent the certified record of the Tennessee vote to Washington, D.C., and it arrived on August 26, 1920. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the proclamation that morning at 8 a.m. at his home. There was no ceremony of any kind, and no photographers were there to capture the moment. And none of the leaders of the woman suffrage movement were present to see him do it. Colby just finished his cup of coffee and signed the document with a regular, steel pen. Then he said, "I turn to the women of America and say: 'You may now fire when you are ready. You have been enfranchised.'

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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